INEC can withhold voter register from Edo Electoral Commission, says court
Federal High Court in Abuja has held that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is not obligated to give the Voter Register to the Edo State Independent Electoral Commission (EDSIEC) for elections, if it amounts to supporting an illegality.
The court noted that the elections are those under the Edo State Local Government Electoral Law and the Edo State Independent Electoral Commission Establishment Law 2017 (as amended in 2022).
It restrained INEC from handing over the voter register covering all local government councils in Edo State for the conduct of elections under both laws, but added a caveat that “it shall be in place until the inconsistency in the Edo State Electoral Law is amended and falls in line with the Electoral Act 2022.”
Justice Taiwo Taiwo made the order on July 27, 2022 in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/423/2022 filed by six plaintiffs, who are members of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State against seven defendants.
“The reduction of the number of days for the purpose of election by the Edo State House of Assembly, not being in tandem with the Electoral Act, 2022, is hereby declared null and void,” the judge added.
The first to sixth plaintiffs are Irene Enike Sylvester, Ayoboh Aloaye Francis, Edogun Aiyeki Toyin, Ogioba Osabuohien Kelvin, Hon. Alekhoojeomoikhuduisumekhai and Hon. Akharumeh F. Benjamin.
The first to seventh defendants are INEC, Attorney-General Of Edo State, EDSIEC, the Speaker, Edo State House of Assembly, the Clerk, Edo State House Of Assembly, PDP and PDP Chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu.
The court also declared that Edo State Local Government Electoral Law and the Edo State Independent Electoral Commission Establishment (Re-Enactment) Law 2017 (as amended in 2022) are contrary to Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution.
It declared further that both laws, which provides for the holding of election within 15 days from the date of publication of notice for the conduct of election is a violation of Sections 28, 29, 32(1), 94(1), 103(1) and (3), 104, 150(1), (2) and (3) of the Electoral Act 2022 and so invalid.
Justice Taiwo also granted an injunction restraining the PDP and its chairman from participating in or fielding any candidate in the proposed council election in Edo State planned for April 19, 2022 by the third defendant under both laws.
He further restrained the PDP, Ayu and their privies from allowing any person being the product of the Edo State Local Government Council Election predicated both laws which provides for the holding of election within 15 days from the date of publication of notice for the conduct of election from participating in the primaries/congresses/convention of the PDP.
The plaintiffs were desirous of contesting election as councillors in the council election planned by the 3rd defendant (EDSIEC) for April 19, 2022, and bought their nomination forms from the 6th defendant (PDP).
It was averred that in 2017, Edo State House of Assembly enacted the Edo State Government Electoral Law and the Edo State Independent Electoral Commission Establishment (Re-Enactment) Law 2017.
They averred that the law provided for 45 days from the period of publication of notice of election to the date of conduct of elections by EDSIEC and that both laws were further amended in March 2022, reducing the period of publication of notice of election from 45 days to 15 days.
They averred that the 15 days notice period stipulated under both laws as well as the timetable for the elections published pursuant to the laws, made it impossible for them to consult with stakeholders in their various wards, source for finance to fund the elections and run their campaign.
It was averred that Section 28(1) of the 2022 Electoral Act permits INEC 360 days to publish a notice of election and Section 104 and 150 (1) & (2) of the Act allows the commission such as the 3rd defendant to comply with the provisions of 2022 Electoral Act in the conduct of their elections into Councils